By Bob Harwood


Wanted: A vacation replacement for Obama. Herewith a sampling of job expectations.

International Engagement.

While Obama’s Cairo address was a good start in changing the tone of American diplomacy further challenges loom. There is a long way to go to achieve a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian standoff. Israel threatens preemptive action against Iran as international agencies condemn its disproportionate response that cost so many innocent lives in Gaza. A fractured Iraq assertively transitions to independence while violence continues.

A forces surge in Afghanistan is instructed to avoid the euphemistically labeled collateral damage that drives Afghans to the Taliban. In neighboring Pakistan millions, many of them women and children, become refugees as the government attacks rebel regions. North Korea goads the world with nuclear saber rattling and missile launches. America seeks to rebuild relations with a distrustful Russia.

An election outcome in Iran at utter odds with projections led to violent demonstrations instantly carried to the world via a democratized Internet. Appropriately, Obama resisted accusations of not “standing up to Iran”. An Iranian government of questionable legitimacy would love to blame unrest on American interference, not on Iranians seeking reform. In 1953 it was American and British clandestine interference that toppled a legitimate democratic government in Iran to usher in an era of dictatorship and religious division to protect their oil interests in the region.

As we preach democracy and reform to others we must reflect on how incomplete some of our own progress has been,—on segregation and discrimination, on women’s right’s issues, on recognition of same gender relationships, on curbing the power of money in our imperfect democracy.

Health care reform. Here too there are complex vying interests. In the American ethos state runanything is anathema. Defenders of the status quo boast of the best health system in the world ignoring 46,000,000 uninsured, costs escalating out of control, and the damning fact that America’s per capita health care costs are double those of most other First World countries yet America ranks low or last on many health outcomes!

Obama has extracted from a reluctant AMA and drug companies significant concessions previously rejected. Profitable private insurers providing highly selective coverage attack concepts of public sector competition. On this file too there is a long way to go with many political / financial agendas as powerful, well heeled lobbyists lurk in the wings.

Financial regulation. The details of tough new financial regulatory strategies are being shaped and defended daily against special interests who label it as yet another intrusion into an ethos of unfettered (or unregulated?) free enterprise. Obama’s personal popularity remains high but there is growing nervousness over the long term impact of the soaring bill. Unemployment ranks swell before programs to create new jobs gain momentum. The financial health of many states is at risk. The politics of “Buy America” risks escalating into a disastrous retreat into protectionism.

These are but three of the many active files confronting a multi-tasking Obama daily. Those seeking employment as his summer replacement must (a) pass a Mensa IQ test, (b) meet Olympic Triathlon physical standards, and (c) meet Oxford Union or Harvard Law Society oratorical standards.

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